A Road Trip Through Jamaica

A Road Trip Through Jamaica

 

Anderson and I arrived into Kingston, Jamaica at around 4pm in the afternoon and we only had about 16 hours here before our flight home the next morning. What was there for us to do?

A friend that I had met during residency interviews a few months ago (and whom would end up being matched to the same residency program as me!), Priya Ghelani, originally was supposed to join me for the big trip last week but decided to stay in Jamaica the whole time. Our plan was to meet up with her because, why not?

Unfortunately, however, I had realized too late that she wasn’t in Kingston; she was actually 2 hours away in Ocho Rios (“Ochi”) with her friends.

Anderson and I researched around and discovered that all the buses weren’t running because it was a Sunday, and the taxi ride from Kingston Airport to Ochi took not only 2 hours but also cost $120 USD each way. While most people would give up and stay in Kingston, Anderson and I are not most people.

So we decided to do something neither of us have ever done before: rent a car for $50 USD and drive there, even though I don’t have a driver’s license (I’m from NYC!) and Anderson has never driven in Jamaica, let alone on the left side of the road, let alone this would be taking place in the middle of the night.

Road Warrior

Kingston

 

The drive from Kingston to Ochi was not easy. There’s no simple stretch of highway that takes you directly there as you have to drive curvy and winding local roads along marshes and cliffs with no idea if a car (or truck) was coming around the bend.

Anderson, as good as a driver as he was, remarked it was one of the craziest things he’s ever done while traveling. I didn’t know whether to feel nervous or honored in that moment.

 

 

But after about 2 and a half hours of driving in the dark on roads we didn’t know, we safely made it to Ochi at around 8:30pm. We quickly checked into our hostel (Reggae Hostel) on the Main Road and headed to Sunset Grande, the resort where Priya and her friends were staying.

Because we got there only 3 minutes after their visiting hours ended at 9pm, Sunset Grande’s security wouldn’t let us (typical of all-inclusive resorts). We tried calling Priya’s hotel room but because she was supposed to meet us at 8pm in the lobby, nobody was picking up. We then returned to our hostel, connected to wifi, and Skyped the lobby of the Sunset Grande Resort. I then made the front desk yell out Priya’s name to get her to come and answer. Surprisingly, it worked.

After meeting back at the Sunset Grande, we took them back to our hostel where we befriended Christopher, the hostel’s manager on night duty. He’s an aspiring reggae artist and rapper about to move to Atlanta, GA, and was able to treat us to a small performance. In return, we asked him to join us at the afterparty at Amnesia Nightclub in a few hours.

And true to his word, he locked up the hostel and came out with us.

 

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There was disappointingly a lot of standing around at Amnesia Nightclub, even when it was already way past midnight. To get the party going a bunch of celebrity dancers started a battle. Naturally, I wanted to join…

 

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And I totally got served:

 

 

 

We ended up leaving the nightclub at around 4am, after which Anderson and I got in about an hour of sleep before setting off back to Kingston at 5:30 in the morning.

 

And like a total boss, Anderson delivered me safe and sound so I could make my 9am flight…

 

 

…safe and sound but not on time. Even though the flight wasn’t leaving for another 50 minutes, I arrived in about 3 minutes after the check-in counter closed (for some reason, Delta wouldn’t let me check in the night before).

Despite my best puppy eyes and desperate pleading, the Delta rep at the check-in counter wouldn’t budge and issue my tickets. Therefore, I was forced to ditch the flight and book another one home via Fly Jamaica, which originally was scheduled to depart at 5am but got delayed to 4pm. Somehow, a horrible inconvenience for other fellow passengers inadvertently became my escape plan. I felt both grateful and guilty.

Regardless, I was heading home.

 

- At time of posting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Flight To The Bahamas

Flight To The Bahamas

 

After the goodbyes, the remaining few arrived safe and sound in The Bahamas.

 

 

We waited a good hour in line to go through passport control since a deluge of flights arrived at the same time. That resulted in hundred and hundreds of Western tourists cramming into the airport. Countless American accents placed against a backdrop of jumbotrons selling big name hotels and resorts became overwhelming welcome signs of naked capitalism that we hadn’t experienced for a good 7 days. Ironically, culture shock would hit us in none other than The Bahamas.

After getting stamped in with no issues, we hailed a $50 USD van to take us all to the Hilton Resort over the local hostels since a few of us had status there and could get free rooms for the group.

 

 

And we just relaxed on the beach until sundown (or rather when a pack of mosquitoes chased us away inside).

 

 

We then stayed up watching videos, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company as a rainstorm raged outside.

 

 

The next morning we all headed to the airport where we said the last of our goodbyes. 

 

 

Anderson and I continued onwards to Jamaica.

 

- At time of posting in Nassau, The Bahamas, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: stormy and rainy

 

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part V)

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part V)

 

Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Jan Ferrer, Susan Samol, Edmund Fong, and yours truly.

 

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“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown. You travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” – Ella Maillart

Havana – May Day

You’re going to miss waking up to a bus ride that will take you back closer to home, knowing that the return trip would be a bittersweet reminder that all good things must come to an end.

 

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You’re going to miss your second, third, or fourth night tour of Old Town, stopping to play tic-tac-toe with the local children on the street, downing a glass of what tasted like frozen hot chocolate, and imbibing oversized beer at a oversized microbrewery on the eve of the country’s biggest holiday.

 

 

You’re going to miss waking up at 6am to be groggily handed a survival kit consisting of a sandwich, water and a coke, walking a few kilometers half-asleep to reach the May Day parade, being pleasantly surprised at the complete lack of anti-capitalist sentiment anywhere, and braving the sweltering heat before being swept up in a sea of such positive energy now expected from a community you probably already have fallen in love with.

 

The Chinese delegation

You’re going to miss the quick glimpse of someone kinda important waving at you from the distance. 

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Raúl C himself; Photo taken by Tom Peddle

 

You’re going to miss slowly recovering from the quick highs of just taking part in the country’s most festive event of the year, and the struggle of a hike through Old Town trying to be as polite as possible to your guide as he says stuff that — despite your best efforts — continues to go in one ear and out the other.

 

A good idea on how tired we were. Photo taken by Susan Samol

 

You’re going to miss wearing your nice clothes and meeting up at the main casa before our last official dinner together.

 

 

You’re going to miss the fancy dinner in one of the country’s most upscale restaurants, sitting where Jay-Z and Beyoncé had sat only a year before, admiring the photos of other celebrities that had been here, the brain teasers that would last the night, and taking the last group photo as if it was prom all over again.

 

 

You’re going to miss the final hurrah by the Malecón, finishing the same way that you started, drunken conversations, dancing, karaoke, bboy battles, and those eternal hugs on the streets as members of our group slowly peeled off with goodbyes one by one…

  

Dancing to Spice Girls

 

You’re going to miss being one of the final few left, who would afterwards return to the scene of the crime of the first night we met, flipping off the hole and metal trap doors that almost killed you only 6 days earlier.

 

 

You’re going to miss topping off the night by storming the embassy one last time, leaving them with a half raised flag, just because you can.

 

One of the flags in the middle has been significantly lowered to quarter-staff. That was us.

 

You’re going to miss giving piggy back rides to random friends, just because you can.

 

 

You’re going to miss trying to make the night last as long as possible, just so you don’t miss out on a place that you’ve become so reluctant to leave.

 

 

You’re going to miss your final trip to Old Town and back, the relaxed window shopping and subsequent taxi ride back home down the coastline.

 

 

You’re going to miss the final dinner and walk down the Malecón by sunset.

 

 

You’re going to miss taking in the final few hours of a week you’ll never forget, the bittersweet amusement when “The Final Countdown” begins to play on the taxi’s radio.

 

 

You’re going to miss the sudden realization that this hard goodbye was finally becoming all too real.

 

 

And most of all, you’re going to miss it long after when we say goodbye…that moment when you finally realize that nobody else for the rest of your life will be able to understand what 30 strangers went through together in 7 days.

And most of all, you’re going to miss each other…

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“…Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part IV)

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part IV)

 

Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Jan Ferrer, Edmund Fong, and yours truly.

 
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“People don’t take trips . . . trips take people.” – John Steinbeck


Trinidad

 

You’re going to miss settling down in a new city and waiting for our homestay assignments, a brief respite before 2 very memorable days.

 

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You’re going to miss the walking tour around a pleasant little town, and the lazy afternoon drinking iced coffee and searching for bottled water.

 

 

You’re going to miss enjoying a private dinner at your homestay before dressing up for the first time on the trip, hearing the first signs of thunder in the distance while walking through the ensuing rainstorm in your nice clothes, jumping over makeshift rivers in the street while looking for our intended venue, celebrating surviving the storm over (once again) cheap cigars and bottles of rum, the impromptu salsa lesson to live music, and the late meandering in the city park as mating dogs prance about you without a care in the world.

 

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You’re going to miss getting up way too early to take an hour hike into a national park, stopping to look at the same bird 10 times as you struggle (so real) to even realize that you just made a terrible mistake and you might be doing this hike completely hungover.

 

 

You’re going to miss coming upon a natural spring grove from where you can take another dive in, wading silently into a bat cave but ruining the moment by doing your best Batman impression, and then climbing random rocks to prove your worth as a human monkey.

 

Jump from here, no big deal.

 

You’re going to miss (the possibility of) taking a crap in the woods when nobody’s looking, and ignoring all the mosquitoes for the next hour as you hike back to civilization.

 

 

You’re going to miss coming upon a unspoiled, barely touched stretch of white sanded beach, finding a strand of hair as long as your arm in your food, participating in an intense game of competitive volleyball with other travelers, finally getting that lazy tan, and the relaxing dip in the Caribbean sea while talking about life, travel, and the future.

 

 

You’re going to miss watching another sunset over quiet conversations with your new family, tending to the wounded when one of them steps on a sea urchin, attempting to make letters with bodies for a group photo, and an unforgettable dinner over unlimited rum by the bonfire as it blazed quietly into the Caribbean night…

 

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The ladies
The gentlemen

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You’re going to miss the steep “WTF are we going” 10 minute hike uphill to reach a nightclub in a cave — famous for being the site of where a freed slave-turned-serial killer ate his victims many years ago (TMI) — passing around seemingly endless bottles of rum like candy, shedding tears over that depressing moment when you realize that the trip was already more than halfway through, jumping in to defend your family from racism and sexual harassment, and then epically celebrating our limited time with an amazing group of people you would eventually call your home away from home.

 

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And can you miss things you don’t even remember? Yeah, you’re going to miss that too…

 

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The struggle being real

 

(to be continued)…

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part III)

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part III)

 

Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Jan Ferrer, Edmund Fong, and yours truly.

 
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“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin


Santa Clara

 

Ché just got served

 

You’re going to miss arriving at the grand monument of one of the most controversial revolutionaries in the world, learning about a life both relatable and extraordinary and far beyond what anyone could have expected from a 20 year old doctor-to-be.

 

The girl in the window represents his innocence
"The Motorcycle Diaries"

 

You’re going to miss arriving at a city famous for being the site of the last and decisive battle of the Revolution, the lazy walk around town and too tired to think for yourself on what to see, where to eat, or when to stop, the very real struggle to find a place to eat in the shade, and the pleasant victory of tasting their delicious version of a hamburger.

 

 

You’re going to miss ordering one hundred scoops of chocolate ice cream for $5 USD (but not waiting over an hour for them to open… that was the worst).

 

 

You will miss taking a lazy nap in the afternoon in a futile attempt to catch up on all the sleep you’ve never get back, the low-key rooftop dinner with new friends that has been beginning to feel like a family, the group photos with cigars to look as badass as possible.

 

The ladies
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The gentlemen

 

You’re going to miss waking up feeling a little more refreshed and grateful for not going as hard last night, the quick exit out the door to leave a town you still barely know.

 

The famous train that Ché derailed

 

You’re going to miss stopping your bus in the middle of nowhere…

 

 

…and the subsequent 5 minute hike into…well…we had no clue…

 

 

…to stumble upon an oasis…

 

 

…and having it all to yourself.

 

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You’re going to miss (and crave) this freshly killed pig for lunch afterwards, knowing that whatever I may write here won’t do this meal any justice.

 

 

And you’re going to miss the lazy bus ride into a famous town infamous for its nightlife…

 

 

(to be continued)…

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part II)

You’re Going to Miss…“The Fairest Island Human Eyes Have Yet Beheld.” (Part II)

 

Pictures courtesy of Vivian Trinh, Edmund Fong, Susan Samol and yours truly.

 
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“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd 


Cienfuegos


The Bay of Pigs just got served

 

You’re going to miss the dreadful feeling of being forced to wake up early the next morning after a night that never seemed to end, being thankfully rescued by a Caribbean breakfast of fresh fruit, juices and eggs, and getting on a bus heading to both somewhere and nowhere.

 

 

You’re going to miss seeing a view of seawater bluer than the sky above it, being wide-eyed WTF at the scores of feisty angry crabs standing in your way and ready to fight, the baking sun that made you desperate to jump in, the reluctance of borrowing questionable scuba gear, and the relief of diving into a fresh, cold natural spring afterwards.

 

First somersault dive

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You’re going to miss satiating your unknowingly famished stomachs, passing around endless rounds of crab, lobster, lamb, chicken, rice, beans, juice, and whatever else can be eaten in a 5 mile radius.

 

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You’re going to miss the impassioned history lesson behind a famous beach you just took an innocent swim in, learning not to take for granted the safe sociopolitical bubbles in which we still live.

 

 

You’re going to miss arriving in a beautiful city designed by the French and yet unknown to the world, the calmness of losing yourself in the sights and sounds of a seaside ocean house over milky piña coladas and sweet daiquiries.

 

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You’re going to miss the sunset, as if you never seen one before.

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